Foxconn Mars Reviewccokeman -
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After pulling the Mars from the box we find that it is sealed in a plastic clamshell instead of a static resistant bag, something that seems to be happening more frequently lately. The benefits of reduced damage to the PCB and attached components may be worth the additional risk. There was no damage to the motherboard we received.
The Mars is an ATX form factor motherboard based on the Intel P35 northbridge and ICH9R southbridge chipsets. DDR2 1066 is officially suported with up to eight gigabytes of capacity. The MARS has a stunning black PCB that makes the rest of the colors on the board stand out with a little bit of "pop."
The I/O panel on the MARS has what could be called almost the standard set of connectivity options on a modern motherboard. PS/2 connectivity is available for both the mouse and keyboard, S/PDIF out coaxial and optical , E-SATA, six USB 2.0, one 1394 Firewire, one RJ-45 Gigabit LAN, and the 8 channel sound outputs.
Expansion capacity is available through two 16x PCI-E slots (16x X 4x in Crossfire mode), two 1x PCI-E slots and three PCI slots. Connectivity across the bottom of the board includes, from left to right, front panel audio, CD in, 1394 Firewire, com port, system fan header, three USB2.0 headers for a total of twelve possible USB connections and the six SATA disk drive connections.
Moving up the right side of the MARS there are a few special features to look at. The first would be the color coded front panel header. This provides an easy guide to ensure that connections are made properly. The second thing is the inclusion of the onboard On/Off and Clear CMOS switches. Onboard and easy to get to, these wil come in handy when you set this one up on the test bench. Next up this side would be the Floppy and IDE drive connections and the four memory slots. All of the connectivity is placed around the outside edges of the MARS.
There are three main power connections on the MARS. The ATX 24-pin main power, 8-pin auxillary power and a 4-pin molex to add additional power to the PCI-E bus for high end graphics cards.
The CPU socket area looks to be a little crowded. There is one line of capacitors just to the top side of the socket, which looks to create a tight fit for large aftermarket heatsinks. The clearance between the Tuniq Tower used to cool the CPU in this review came extremely close to touching, if not actually touching, the capacitors in this area.
The cooling solution on the MARS uses what is called Cool Pipe technology. The heatsinks used are all connected via heatpipes designed to draw the heat away from the critical components of the board. These include the South and Northbridge and the power management circuit for the CPU.
Included below is a brief explanation of Cool Pipe technology. This graphic from Foxconn illustrates the process as well as the components involved.